Basic Tomato Pasta Sauce

When I first started to make tomato sauce, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know that additional vegetables were added to add complexity of flavor. I didn’t know how to season it properly and I certainly had no idea how long to let it simmer. Last summer, I started hanging out with my friend’s brother upon her suggestion. David was always boasting about his Italian heritage and we decided to have Monday night dinners. He taught me about tomato sauces and freshly baked bread and I taught him about pasta doughs and opened his eyes to the ease and deliciousness of rolling it yourself. It was truly a wonderful friendship that really challenged me to expand my baking & cooking repertoire.

This is not his recipe, but one I’ve developed over the years of trial and error. Though, I will say he provided a vital step in the process of developing it.  I like it because it uses a lot of veggies and only as much salt as you want, making it healthy and versatile. If you want more veggies (or texture) in your sauce, you can always saute eggplant, peppers, or mushrooms in a separate pan and add them in or just wilt some spinach in it as it keeps warm over med. low heat.
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Basic Tomato Sauce
yields approx 4 cups

needs:

drizzle of olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 zucchini, chopped (optional)
2- 14 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. oregano
1/2 t. parsely
1/2 t. cayenne pepper (optional)
small dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
6-8 basil leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced (approx.1 T.)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, start with a drizzle of olive oil and the onion and garlic. Saute until slightly browned and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the carrot, celery and zucchini. Continue to cook until soft and slightly browned.

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Add the tomatoes & their juice, making sure to crus the tomatoes a little with your hands. Add the spices and heat until simmering. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes. This allows the sauce to thicken and the seasonings to marinate.

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Remove the bay leaf and transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the basil leaves and blend on high speed for 2 minutes.

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Transfer back to the pan, stirring in the lemon juice. Either keep warm over low-medium low heat until ready to use or allow your sauce to cool in a glass container for another day!

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Do you have veggies in the fridge that you don’t know what to do with? Oven roast them.

I am sad to say that I didn’t always know about the joys of oven roasting, but it is a truly miraculous little technique that transforms bland veggies into magical treats. I bought some asparagus last week with high hopes of doing something with them but alas, it didn’t quite work out. They waited patiently and hopefully bundled in two purple rubber-bands, simply begging for a purpose. Today they got their wish.

Oven Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus
2-3 T. olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minces or crushed
salt & pepper
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash your precious asparagus and place them on a foil lined baking sheet, evenly spread. Lightly drizzle olive oil over the stalks and shake/grind salt & pepper.

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With a cheese grater, lightly grate parmesan cheese over the asparagus (a small dusting, if you will).
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Place them in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the ends become crisp and the stalks become soft. They lose much of their rigidity when this happens, so if you pull one out and it is still standing proud and tall, then he probably needs more time in the oven. They will also lose their bright green color and fade to toasted green-brown.

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Let cool briefly and transfer with tongs to a plate. For extra flavor, you could squeeze a little lemon on top, but I prefer the mild parmesan garlic taste.

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